PUMPKIN SPICE EVERYTHING!

It’s autumn, the leaves are changing, there’s a chill in the air, we all know what that means…

PUMPKIN TIME!

JR Conlin, for WikiMedia Commons

JR Conlin, for WikiMedia Commons

Autumn is bar none, absolutely, positively, my favourite season.

I love wearing my leather jacket, I love crunching leaves, and I love eating all of the delicious harvest foods.  Especially the pumpkin-y, squash-y ones.  Here are some tips to make one of the best autumn foods – pumpkin treats – a little better for you.

First, pumpkins are already pretty great, they’re full of antioxidants and are purported to be an anti-inflammatory foods – ‘What’s that knee injury?  I should go eat some pie?  Well, if you say so’.

They are high in Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Beta Carotene, potassium, magnesium, and zinc. They’re also a source of fiber, and the seeds are a source of both protein and fatty acids – so keep and roast those seeds!

So, how to eat all of this delicious orange goodness?  Here are some tasty ideas:

First, for all of these recipes, you’ll need pumpkin purée –

You can buy the canned stuff, or easily make your own.  Grow or buy a pumpkin, scrub the dirt off of it (don’t use soap), cut it into pieces (halves if you’re baking in the oven, smaller if you’re using the microwave).   Using a sharp-ish spoon, scoop out the stringy guts, set aside the seeds.

Oven – Put the cut pieces face down in a shallow baking dish, cover with foil, and bake at 375 degrees for 60-90 minutes (until they’re soft).

Microwave – place pieces in a shallow baking dish with an inch or so of water.  Cook for 10-20 minutes (until they’re soft).  Once the pumpkin is soft, scoop out the fruit, put it in a bowl and blend it – I use an immersion blender to get it silky smooth.

Fresh-Pumpkin-Seeds_83083-480x320

The purée is the most time-consuming step, once that’s done, you can go to pumpkin town!

SPICED PUMPKIN SOUP

Ingredients: pumpkin purée, chicken or vegetable stock, whatever else you want to add

Soups are simple.  Take 4 cups of chicken or veggie stock and simmer on medium heat, add your purée, blend until smooth, and spice to your heart’s content.  Don’t have a pumpkin?  Use squash.  What can you add?  Well;

Carmelized onion, cumin, curry, cream or yogurt on top, garlic, coriander, red pepper flakes, coconut milk (if you like it thinner), bacon, black beans, roasted sweet peppers…  If you can dream it, it can go in your soup!

EASY (sort of good for you) PUMPKIN PIE

Ingredients: Crust: graham crumbs or rolled oats (and/or almond meal), butter (and/or coconut oil or EVOO), Pie – pumpkin purée, pumpkin pie spice, can of evaporated milk, 2 eggs, sweetener – sugar, honey, or stevia

Here’s something I’ve recently learned – baking pumpkin pie is SUPER easy (and it makes your house smell amazing)!

I won’t tell you how to make traditional crust, since I’m not a master yet.  You can buy premade (please read the ingredients first), you can make your own (3 parts flour – with a bit of salt and sugar, 2 parts fat, 1 part cold water), OR you can do what I do and cheat.  I press a crust with 1 1/2 cups of something dry – graham crumbs or rolled oats.  For added awesome, substitute half with almond meal (or any other ground up nut mix).  That gives it a nice, nutty flavour – or you can also add in that cricket flour we discussed a few weeks ago.  Most pressed crust recipes tell you to add sugar – I don’t, but I don’t have a sweet tooth.  Next, add your fat source to get the crust to stick together.  You can use butter, or part butter part oil (either coconut or olive), experiment with what suits your tastes best. A pretty good crust ratio is 1 1/4 cups of dry crumbs to 1/3 cup melted fat.

I used to believe that baking was strictly a science, and that I would be likely to ruin anything I tried, as I am unlikely to stick to a recipe.  That’s why I like recipes that have the least possible amount of baking in them.  Less baking, more experimenting! Press the crumbs into your greased or non-stick pie plate and get ready to add your filling!

Here’s your pie – To 2 cups of purée, add a can of evaporated milk, 1 cup of sugar (brown or white, or 1 1/4 cups honey or 1/3 cup stevia), 2 eggs, and pumpkin pie spice (cinnamon, cloves, allspice, ginger – I buy the one that’s already all of them).  Blend, and pour on top of the crust.  It will be pretty liquidy, but will firm up as it bakes.  I like to top with cinnamon. Bake at 350F for 40-60 minutes.  You can also make this pie with NO CRUST WHATSOEVER.  Instead of using a pie pan, use a greased loaf pan.  It ends up being like a delicious solid pumpkin pudding.

Finally, what will you drink?

Clearly, a…

PUMPKIN SPICE LATTE (with no weird chemicals)

Ingredients: pumpkin purée, pumpkin pie spice, black pepper, sweetener – sugar, honey, or stevia, vanilla, milk, espresso (or strongly brewed coffee), whipping cream (optional)

Go easy on the pumpkin spice lattes (and the pie for that matter).  They are still treats, rather than dietary staples. That said, this option is a heck of a lot better of you than the one you don’t make yourself in terms of sugar content and unpronounceable ingredient inclusion.

In a saucepan, combine 2 tbps purée, 1/2 tsp spice and some freshly ground black pepper. Stir constantly!  Add in your sweetening agent, about 2 tbsp of sugar, or a bit more honey than that, or a third of that in stevia – the mixture should get thick and bubbly.  Whisk in 2 cups of milk, and a tbsp of vanilla. Make sure to keep the heat low enough that it doesn’t boil over.  Next blend it with an immersion blender (or in a regular blender).  In the meantime, have your coffee or espresso brewing.

Once your milk is frothy and your coffee is brewed, pour about 1/4 cup coffee into a mug and top with the spiced milk.  If you are so inclined, add whipped cream and cinnamon on top.

Note for tea grannies like me: Don’t like coffee? no prob!  Substitute it for strongly brewed spicy black tea, especially chai.  Enjoy!

Anders Lagerås, for Wikipedia

So much delicious pumpkin goodness – Happy harvest!

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